“Mindful Eating” for Weight Loss Success

Steph Wagner MS, RDN

August 25, 2015

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Mindful eating as an approach to long term success after weight loss surgery. How to use this popular behavior change methodology for long term post-op success.

Behavior Modifying Tactics

With America’s constant rise in Obesity and Diabetes, there are an amazing amount of theories on weight loss tactics. Some theories focus on small consistent changes that feel practical. Others take a deeper look, looking more holistically on how to change behaviors long term.

While I certainly have my bias to what works and what doesn’t work for long-term success (who doesn’t?), I also agree that we are each different people with different bodies and different minds who approach things differently for success. Knowledge is power. After educating ourselves, we all have to find what works for us.

One theory for helping behavior change, or rather approach, to weight control is something called “Mindful Eating.” It’s something I studied in graduate school.

What is Mindful Eating?

It’s as simple as it sounds. Mindful Eating is eating with intention and attention. 

Mindful eating as an approach to long term success after weight loss surgery. How to use this popular behavior change methodology for long term post-op success.

Does this feel like a broad explanation? Maybe. However, try repeating it again and slowly to help understand those words when it comes to eating. It really does keep it simple.

When I coach my pre and post-op bariatric surgery patients we talk about slowing down at meals and stopping at the first sign of fullness. Those habits require being MINDFUL of how you are eating. To achieve those habits, slowing down and stopping at the right point, it requires eating with attention and intention.

When someone is snacking late at night I often ask them, “head hunger, or true hunger?” I want them to be MINDFUL of why they are eating. What was the intention when the pantry door opened?

Mindful eating as an approach to weight loss has a whole methodology and training program. I’ve watched videos that almost seem, admittedly, painfully slow as the person closes their eyes and focuses on all the different tastes and feels of the food. They are focused on being very in tune and mindful of the eating process. I do appreciate the practice for helping one be in tune to what eating can be. However, I don’t feel it is realistic for me to think my patients are going to tune everyone out and have a moment of meditation over their hamburger patty.

As a side note, when I have patients with severe food aversions I DO have them utilize this type of practice to help establish a healthy relationship with eating. That’s another conversation. 

Regardless, I am a firm believer that post-op weight loss surgery eating needs to be a much more mindful approach to eating than ever before. Why? Your bites need to be TINY. And that doesn’t happen on accident! You cannot drink with your meals and for 60 minutes afterwards (yes, this recommendation differs by program). You need to listen to your tiny stomach and stoooooop at the first indication of fullness. And that means you must pay attention.

Mindful eating as an approach to long term success after weight loss surgery. How to use this popular behavior change methodology for long term post-op success.

When counting protein grams gets in the way.

This is yet another reason why my own practice does not encourage counting grams of protein for post-op Sleeve, Bypass and Band patients. Yes, it IS true the ASMBS (American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery) recommends patients have 60 grams of protein per day. However, I find patients can achieve their protein goals by taking another approach.

Eat two bites of protein to every one bite of non-starchy vegetables. Eating slowly, stopping at the first sign of fullness.

This amount is going to differ based on the pouch! I like this approach as it helps patients to listen to their body instead of focusing on numbers, ounces and grams. I find it works itself out more naturally and it allows for a healthier relationship with food when enjoying the meal and listening for the stoping point. Keeping the ratio of more protein to vegetable ensures the body is getting that great protein that fills up the stomach, keeps it full and keep blood sugars stabilized.

60 grams of protein is less than three ounces of protein at every meal. For example, two eggs at breakfast, three ounces of chicken at lunch and three ounces of ground turkey at dinner would yield nearly 56 grams of protein. Without any shakes. In time, patients will reach this naturally.

(Note: I do talk about this more in depth in my members video course “The Do’s and Don’ts of Protein)

Let’s look at it another way. If I told you to eat 80 grams of protein every day, you wouldn’t be mindfully eating…you’d be forcing and eating because I told you to. It would no longer be what your pouch is telling you, rather more to do with what the plate is telling you.

You can read more about Mindful Eating and the methodology behind it with a few Google searches. At the end of the day I do support Mindful Eating within the Bariatric Weight Loss Diet.

Small bites. Pause in between bites. Stop at fullness. Don’t drink with it. Wait 60 minutes to drink. Find variety in your food so you still enjoy! Members keep variety in their meal plans here on FCM and access to our full recipe library. Think of it this way, just like having a good long meal with a loved one, you are working on a healthy relationship. This is about harvesting a healthy relationship with the healthy plate of food in front of you.

Pay attention to your meals. Ask yourself when you’re full and why you want to eat in between meals. Keep your communication lines open with yourself and stay honest.

Speaking of honesty…

I really love the honest conversations that happen in the Members Facebook Group for FoodCoach.Me. Conversations are going on everyday about real struggles and members are met with encouragement and real life suggestions of what is working for others. Find out about becoming a member and join our group!


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